13 Feb 2019

Huawei ad hits back at NZ govt's 5G decision

1:33 pm on 13 February 2019

Huawei's full page newspaper ads are unlikely to change the government's stance on the telecommunications company, a marketing expert says.

The government has rejected Spark's bid to use Huawei equipment to roll out the 5G network, citing "significant network security risks".

The Chinese company has gone on the public relations offensive taking out ads in the New Zealand Herald and on Stuff, reading '5G without Huawei is like rugby without New Zealand'.

University of Auckland senior marketing lecturer Mike Lee said trying to pull at the country's heartstrings would not be enough.

"What they need is a policy level change.

"I just can't see an ad, no matter how powerful it is, particularly one for what is essentially a multinational organisation ... getting people riled up enough to protest [in] the streets and march to the Beehive to demand that the government let Huawei install their 5G network in New Zealand."

In a statement, Huawei New Zealand said the company was demonstrating that countries like New Zealand risked missing out on having the best possible networks.

"We see this as a quirky way of getting that message across," the statement said.

"New Zealanders wouldn't accept second or third best on the rugby field, and they shouldn't have to put up with it when it comes to 5G.

"There has been no evidence produced that Huawei has done anything wrong and we believe New Zealanders could miss out on a real 5G experience if Huawei is not involved."

Professor of International Relations at Otago University Robert Patman said the ad was a classic illustration of the political differences between New Zealand and China.

"New Zealand is a pluralist democracy and China is an authoritarian system but China does not hesitate to use the freedoms of a democratic system to appeal against a decision against Huawei, a Chinese high tech company.

"A company like Fonterra or Air New Zealand would not be in the same position to lobby opinion in China in the way that China's trying to effectively reverse the decision that's been made against it by the New Zealand government.

The PR push comes in a week when the launch of the 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism was postponed, after China advised of scheduling problems, and an Air New Zealand plane was turned back five hours into a flight to China because it hadn't been registered to land.

The National Party has been critical of the government's approach to China, but Prof Patman said the changing relationship was mainly due to the country's growing might and self-confidence.

"One of the frustrating things about the Chinese leadership is it doesn't tolerate opposition at home but it can somehow continue that line internationally."

He said it was important for countries like New Zealand to challenge China when it overstepped the mark.